We all have them — bad habits that we wish we didn’t have but feel pessimistic about changing. Maybe you know you really have to spend less time on Facebook or playing online games. Or perhaps you’ve tried a dozen times to quit smoking. Or maybe even thinking about getting more exercise makes you feel too tired to start. Whatever habit you’re trying to break, somehow you haven’t found the key to success.
Search no more. Bad habits can be broken. Really. Here are 7 tips from the researchers who research such things:
1. Cut yourself some slack. Habits are hard to change because, well, they’re habits. There’s a reason why they are hard to break. We actually need most of the habits we have. We go through most of our days engaging in good habits, routines, and activities. If we didn’t, everything we did every day would be something we’d have to think about. Instead, we’re wired to learn and put in place activities that sustain us without giving it a moment’s thought.
From the time you stumble into the bathroom in the morning to wash your face to your drive to work where you have a “habit” of following traffic rules, to your routines as you go through your workday to kicking off your shoes when you get back to the house, you are on autopilot a fair amount of the time. That frees your mind and your energy for new situations and new problems that require new decisions, creativity, and actions. Unfortunately, the brain really doesn’t discriminate between the bad habits and the good ones. Once a routine is sorted into the “automatic” category, it’s hard to get it back out.
2. Identify the underlying cause. All habits have a function. The habit of brushing your teeth every morning prevents trips to the dentist. The habit of checking your email first thing at work helps you organize your day. Bad habits are no different. They too have a function.
Mindless eating can be a way to comfort yourself when you’re feeling down. Cruising the Internet for hours might be a way you avoid interacting with your partner or kids. Smoking (in addition to being just plain addictive) may be a way to take time out to pause and think. Drinking too much may be the only way you know how to be social. If you want to break the habit, you have to come to grips with whatever function the bad habit is serving.
3. Deal with the real problem. Sometimes dealing is relatively easy. If snacking on junk food all afternoon is a compensation for not eating lunch, it’s obvious that the function of eating whatever is in the vending machine is to satisfy hunger. Your “habit” is telling you that you really do need to stop and take the 15 minutes to have lunch. But if your time on video games is your way to stay out of fights with your partner, it may be painful to face how dysfunctional your relationship has in fact become.
Even if it makes you feel guilty and bad about yourself for having a bad habit, you are not likely to stop it unless you come up with another way to deal with its function. Something positive has to be put in its place. Positive can mean pleasant — like eating that lunch instead of skipping it to forage in the vending machine later. Positive can also be painful but important — like dealing with your feelings instead of stuffing them down with food, or getting into therapy with your partner instead of numbing your problems away with video games or alcohol or weed.
4. Write it down. There’s something about committing a promise to a paper that makes that promise more real. Researchers have found that just writing out a goal and keeping it handy to look at every day (or as many times a day as you need to) can help you stay on track. So write down your promise to yourself and read it before every meal and at bedtime. That’s a prescription that has no side effects and is likely to help.
5. Get yourself a buddy. There’s a reason that many recovery programs include group meetings and individual sponsors or therapists. Being accountable to others is a powerful incentive to keep on keeping on. By both giving and receiving support, you keep the goal in focus. Working with an individual sponsor or counselor can help you deal with the basis of your bad habit and find positive, healthy ways to take care of yourself instead. Being accountable to a friend (in person or virtual) helps you just stay on track.
6. Give yourself enough time. The conventional wisdom is that it takes 28 days to get free of a bad habit. Unfortunately, that notion is just plain wrong. Bad habits are hard to break because they are Habits (with a capital H). Remember: your brain has put your bad habit in the “automatic” category. Once there, it’s difficult to shake it free.
Yes, some people can get a good jumpstart in 28 days. But current research shows that most of us need about three months to substitute a new behavior for a bad habit. Some people need longer. Some people need to find a gentle but powerful way to stick with the project for the rest of their lives. It depends on the habit, your personality, your level of stress, and the support you have in place.
7. Allow for slips. You won’t be perfect. Almost everyone slips up. It’s only human. But it’s not a reason to give up. A slip provides you with information. It tells you what kinds of stressors push you off your good intentions. It tells you what you might need to change in order to stay on track. Think hard about why you slipped and get back on board. Tomorrow is another day.
Author Michael Hyatt in Living Forward calls it “the Drift”. The drift is when we are floating through life, and, over time become, unaware, distracted, overwhelmed (by things we let overwhelm us). The majority of the population does this. But many of us become overwhelmed because we are locked into what the U.S. has brainwashed us successful or will make us happy. We are pushed to consume things we don’t need to fill the void (unhappiness) from not living a life that is aligned with our values. Many never have time (or take the time) to just STOP ask the big questions. Ask what we truly value. I didn’t. And its why I’m taking the risk of leaving a comfortable, well paying job, and pursuing a life that is aligned with my values. Because this will eat you alive eventually, even if you have all the money in the world. Its why people have mid-life crisis, and frankly is at the foundation of many of the issues we have in this country (health, financial, etc.). It goes back to the 5 Regrets of the Dying I worked It also goes back to th.
So I decided it was time. While I’m fortunate to not have obligations that tie me down, stopping to ask the questions is within everyone’s reach. And that was my starting point for what is a significant change and risk. and it can be anyone’s. I stopped, reassessed and knew I needed space . Many of our worries are just other peoples worries that we take in through osmosis (this is proven). So I am leaving a comfortable job . I have read and listened to enough to know with 100% clarity that . That money is not necessarily the answer.
Author Michael Hyatt in Living Forward calls it “the Drift”. The Drift is when we begin floating through life, and, over time, become unaware, distracted, and overwhelmed (by things we unknowingly let overwhelm us). The majority of our population does this and knows the feeling.
It starts early. Even if you are fortunate enough to attend college, we are rushed to decide on life-long careers with very little self-awareness. So we end up pursuing careers based on external pressures or that will provide financial stability. That’s a bad recipe. It’s why Europeans take Gap Years.
It’s also why I’m taking a Sabbatical (a.k.a. a Grown Up Gap Year) in the middle of my career with no job guarantee on my return. Because I was stuck in the Drift and being misaligned with your values will eventually eat you alive. It’s why people have mid-life crises. Lawyers provide a great example. They are known to be highly compensated, but highly unhappy. Many would say miserable (sorry Lawyers, this is proven). I know many Lawyers and Bankers who have loads of material possessions, but are completely unfulfilled.
One need not look any further than the 5 Regrets of the Dying to affirm that money and possessions are not what matter in the long run. Being true to yourself, relationships, that’s what matters. This should sound alarms in our society and we need to start taking it seriously. It’s also a big reason I’m taking the risk to leave my comfortable and well-paying job to pursue a life that is aligned with my values. To grow my relationships that have atrophied while I lived in the Drift. Because I know it’s what will matter in the end.
But many never make (or take) the time to STOP and ask the big questions. Ask what we truly value. I didn’t. It takes a while to dig deep and really think it through. So if you are feeling unfulfilled, try to take a pause. Even if only for a few minutes or hours at first. And think about what you value. It doesn’t mean you have to leave your job. We all have families, mortgages (hopefully one you can afford), obligations. But start taking action to find what will bring you true fulfillment and peace in the end. It’s not money or possessions. It’s the soft stuff. The intangibles. Don’t forget that.
1. Emotional Calls and the 86% rule: Emotional Calls are your and your partner’s attempts to connect with one another. Research shows that, in healthy, thriving marriages, partners respond to 86% of one another’s Emotional Calls. In marriages heading for divorce, partners respond to only 33%
2. The Inner World: Research shows that you and your partner both have your own unique, subjective reality that you live in everyday. This means that you think and feel differently—about everything—and a big part of marriage is making consistent attempts learn more about your partner’s inner world.
3. The “We:” You and your partner are two different people, but your relationship creates a third entity, with needs distinct from either one of you. This is called your “We.” When you make decision to support your “We,” your relationship health increases.
4. The 96% Conflict Rule: Research shows that, 96% of the time, when a conversation begins poorly—due to tone, volume, words used, or a combination of all three—it ends poorly, too. The lesson? Starting conversations gently and thoughtfully helps you resolve conflict.
5. The Appreciation Effect: Studies show that consistently expressing appreciation (e.g. “Thank you” or “Wow, I really appreciate when you do that for me”) nurtures and protects your relationship over the long haul. It’s the lowest-hanging fruit in your marriage.
6. Co-Create Your Own Culture: The family culture you co-create provides you with the right structure to stay emotionally connected. How? Your culture defines your rituals—those daily, weekly, and monthly rhythms of connection.
7. Money Isn’t About The Math: Conversations about money aren’t about money—they’re about how you each of you envisions the present and the future. Differences in these visions can easily lead to strife. When you’re in a money-related conflict, pause for a moment and ask: “Why do you value (or not value) this?”
8. Your Sex “Script:” There are two key factors related to satisfying sex: emotional connection and conversations about sex. The second one often gets overlooked, but research shows that only 9% of couples who can’t talk comfortably about sex report sexual satisfaction. By talking about sex, couples develop a “script” or “playbook” for how to please one another emotionally and sexually.
9. Interdependence: Married partners are dependent on one another for emotional security and nurturing. However, emotional dependence can become unhealthy. Partners should be able to act interdependently—they can count on one another—without risking their identity.
10. Emotional Forgiveness: Emotional forgiveness ideally enables you to “forget” an offense. The goal? Try as hard as you can to understand your partner, see the world through their eyes, and take responsibility for your part of the conflict, no matter how minor.